This time nearly a year ago I was putting the final touches together on Harrison’s Fund Sky High Ball and barely had a minute to breathe! I had taken on the task of organising a black tie dinner at Altitude360 for over 230 people in the hope of raising awareness along with some much needed money for the charity.
With a background in event management, I’ve spent most of my career putting together staff parties, corporate hospitality and charity dinners but always with the backing of a substantial company budget. When volunteering to organise a charity event for a charity in its infancy, and therefore no budget in place, the challenge was quite immense and somewhat daunting!
Over the course of about 6 months, I pulled in every favour I had to try and get branding, staging, lighting and a venue without shelling out too much money in order to raise as much as I could on the evening. However, as I always say, the difference between a good event and a great event is in the detail, the idea and concept behind it.
For us to do something different, we needed some creative genius to give the event talkability but without spending a penny. How could I get the guests to talk about the event and remember it from every other charity night they’d been to before?
Our whole concept and slogan for the night was about ‘making time’. Make time for those children with Duchenne that don’t have any time themselves when delivered such a short life expectancy.
Over a couple of Starbucks, we brainstormed and muddled round the idea of time and how you can create time by making it go backwards. Doing those things you do every day without thinking, but backwards.
I’d love to claim credit but Will came up with the suggestion of serving the meal backwards. It was ‘out there’ as an idea… different… clever… just what I was looking for! I ran with it!
The venue and more importantly the chef were on board and after a very long menu tasting, we put together a menu that would work and still taste good, served backwards.
The guests enjoyed apple crumble served with custard, followed by braised pork belly and finished up with a garden pea, mint and broad bean veloute.
The room was abuzz when the dessert came out first, smiles opening up across the room as they understood the message of the evening. And with £45k raised from the generoisity of those in attendance at the evening, I’d call that a successful event and the proudest moment in my career.
When I came across this upside down banana cake recipe, it reminded me of that event and how sometimes turning things up the other way and looking at what might be possible when you do things differently might just deliver something a little unexpected.
There are of course many banana cake/bread recipes out there, all fighting it out and claiming to be the best. But there was something a little special about this one that caught me off guard.
I loved the caramelised banana on top, smothered with delicious salted caramel providing a hidden surprise of flavour. The pecans give an unforeseen crunch just hiding underneath the banana layer, before you hit the moist banana cake underneath.
I’ve made endless amounts of banana cake in my time, but this has topped it as a favourite. I like that there are no nuts in the actual cake batter and they instead just sit as a hidden layer between the slivers of banana on top and morish banana running through the base. I love the salted caramel tones flowing from the top layer all the way through the sponge. Not overpowering, but complementing the banana.
The recipe was a surprise, an unexpected treat, a success.
Salted caramel upside down banana cake
For the topping (the bottom):
3-4 tbsp of Salted Caramel Sauce (you can make this from scratch quite easily, but I had a jar left in the fridge from another recipe so I used that. You can buy it from most supermarkets and comes in a 260g jar.)
70g pecans, chopped
For the cake:
250g caster sugar
125g unsalted butter, softened
3-4 overripe bananas, mashed
2 medium eggs
250g plain flour
3 tsp baking powder
The remainder of the salted caramel sauce
Preheat your oven to 170C/150C fan. Grease and line a 23cm spring-form cake tin.
Spread the salted caramel sauce evenly on the bottom of your cake tin.
Chop your two bananas for the top into long slivers covering the caramel sauce as much as you can. Leave as few gaps as possible. Sprinkle your roughly chopped pecans into all the gaps and over the bananas so that you have a thin layer of pecans.
In a large bowl, beat together the sugar, butter, bananas and eggs until roughly combined. Then, add the flour and baking powder and stir everything together very gently, until just combined – it should still be lumpy, but no flour should be visible. Dollop in the remainder of your salted caramel and swirl through the batter.
Pour this mixture on top of your prepared bananas and pecans and place in the oven for 50 minutes (although I left mine in for an extra 10 minutes and covered it with foil to stop the top browning. When it is cooked, a skewer will come out clean and the cake will be springy to press.
When baked, leave to cool for 10 minutes in the tin. Unclip the side of your tin and place a plate on top of your cake. Then, holding everything, flip your cake onto the cake stand so the bottom is now the top. Remove the base and baking lining.
Best served slightly warm with some crème fraiche or vanilla ice cream.